Fourth Friday: Stories of Food and Farming in Cuba

Friday June 28, 7:30-9:30pm 
Fireside Room, Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston, Palo Alto

This Fourth Friday, learn about the Organic Revolution that started in the 90s in Cuba and how it has progressed in the last 30 years. With the continued opening of Cuba, more change is in the wind:

We’ll begin by watching Tierralismo, the story of Vivero Alamar an urban cooperative farm on the edge of Havana, founded during the Special Period to feed its community. The 153 owners of the farm live in the neighborhood, work on the property and share in the bounty it produces and the profit from sales.

We’ll conclude with a travelogue from Peter Ruddock, who recently visited Cuba as part of the first Slow Food California trip to that country, where he visited urban farms, including Vivero Alamar, local restaurants, Cuban food and farming experts and much, much more, all while learning how fast the landscape is changing as Cuba continues to open to the world.



TPA at the re:Maker Fair

On a very hot summer day, Transition Palo Alto joined other local organizations at the Mitchell Park Community Center for the re:Maker Fair.  The Fair, sponsored by the Palo Alto Library, brought together skill shares and information tables in the spirit of a Maker Fair, but with a twist:  we all showed people how to make things out of things that might other wise have gone to waste, hence re:Maker.

Transition Palo Alto’s table was dedicated to the use of food scraps that might otherwise have been tossed.  The centerpiece of our simple table was a guessing game, where we had put different food scraps in brown paper bags.  We were amused that some people were nervous to reach into the bags! – did they think we put sharp objects in there?  The bags actually contained onion skins, potato peals, carrot tops and celery leaves, and few people guessed them all.  Having guessed the contents or not, people were then made aware of what produce we had and were asked what to do with all of them together.  The answer, of course, was to add water and to make Vegetable Broth.

We offered them some tips, which we now offer to you:

  • Do you know which vegetables and scraps to use in broth?  Jennifer’s Kitchen offers a great list of vegetables and suggested uses.  For example, onion skins add color, but if you want a nice onion-y flavor, do add a piece of the onion flesh as well.  And don’t overdo the carrot tops or you’ll make the broth too bitter.
  • The Crisper Whisperer adds yet more tips.  Potato peels, and potato of course, make a thicker broth.

We also suggested an easy method of production which had light bulbs turning on over heads:

  • Keep a container in your freezer for raw scraps and add to them as you chop your veggies.
  • Take out what scraps you need for the dish you are making, balanced for taste – but make a bigger batch than you need for that dish.
  • Put the unneeded broth in ice cube trays and freeze them.  Dump the ice cubes into a labelled container if you wish.  This way you will have small amounts of broth for flavoring side dishes, such as rice.

Of course, when you strain the broth, you will still have scraps for your compost pile.  Just fewer of them and with much of the taste and nutrition extracted for your broth.

We had a great time with the Library and hope to join them again at community events in the future.  And/or have them join us at their cousin events, our Share Faires.


May Transition Palo Alto Community Council

On Tuesday, May 22, Transition Palo Alto’s Community Council met for the second time.  Six intrepid souls met at the Prolific Oven in downtown Palo Alto to hash through the business of Transition.


We first set our mind to considering the pending election and the question set by the Steering Committee in the May TPA Newsletter:  should we endorse local propositions.  The group decided, after much soul searching, that we should not endorse propositions in the name of Transition Palo Alto.  TPA is not a membership organization, nor a registered 501(c)3 – or other- non-profit.  The assembled group thought that in order to use Transition Palo Alto’s name on an endorsement, TPA ought to have a more formal structure and a publicly defined process for endorsements, such that all members could become involved, whatever membership then entailed.  This might seem less than satisfying, but in fact it was very satisfying:  we had a group of supporters, with inclusion beyond the steering committee, come out with a well thought through position.


We did come up with our own opinions, which are those of the assembled group only.  We agreed that we supported Proposition 68 and that we opposed Proposition 70.  We decided that since none of us were residents of San Jose, we were not going to take a position on Measure B.  (Spoiler:  in yesterday’s election 68 passed, while 70 and B were both defeated.)


We talked about the City of Palo Alto’s draft Zero Waste Plan.  Most people hadn’t read it.  It is a significant document, running to about 50 pages, including charts and appendices.  Those who skimmed it were impressed by its vision, short term and long.  We decided that it was indeed something which Transition Palo Alto should comment on and kicked off a committee to make comments.  If you would like to participate, send us a message.


We ran out of time before returning to our Resource Map conversation.  One thing we’re learning is that these conversations are deep and take time.  We’ll want to put multiple items on the agenda, but order them for urgency in case we run out of time.  We’ll want to return to the Resource Map conversation soon, and if we don’t have time to finish it in the Community Council, then it may just have to kick off its own separate project.


Look to join us in Council some time.

First TPA Community Council

We had our first Transition Palo Alto Community Council at Palo Alto Cafe this Tuesday.  Attendance was modest, but it is bound to grow as people discover the opportunity to get more involved with setting priorities, creating events and participating in the operations of Transition Palo Alto.


We made a good (re-)start on the idea of a Transition Palo Alto Resource Map.  We realized that there are many issues to be discussed before we have a map, including at least:
  • What makes a place a Transition Resource?  Criteria need to be grounded in Transition values.
  • What area will we cover?  It must be broad enough to be accessible to our members, but narrow enough to cover responsibly with limited volunteer power?.
  • Should we have grades?  Not all resources will have all Transition values, but some which have a good representation of values should be noted anyway.
  • Maintenance of the map was not discussed but will have to be.  New businesses appear, while old ones disappear, and some may cease to follow Transition values while remaining in business.
We spent some times considering Grocery Stores as our first category of businesses to be included on the Map.  We do expect that we will want to discuss this for a few months, at the level of the map and criteria, and at the level of the grocery store before we produce our first map.  This is a complex process that demands serious thought and research.


We also came up with a good plan for the Palo Alto Library’s re:Maker Fair, which will take place on June 23.  We will follow up on March’s Shop Your Fridge Potluck and the interest in decreasing food waste and show people what to do with odd-bits and leftovers.  At the least, we will talk about saving craps, peels and tops for veggie stock, either made immediately in small amounts, or later with bits saved in the freezer in bigger batches.  There are lots of little tips and techniques to include in such a demo.  We would also like to run the Dan Barber video about squash bits on a laptop.  A team will form to put together a detailed presentation/table over time.  Reach out to us if you are interested in participating.


Make sure to join us in May.  Look for an announcement with time, place and other details.

A Letter from Cornwall

Last month, Transition Palo Alto received the most wonderful letter from Christine Sefton, a member of the Eden Project Communities Team in Cornwall, UK.  She wanted to let us know about their Share Fairs, and how similar they are to our own Share Faires.  We have responded, of course, and are beginning what should be a great conversation around the simultaneous development of great ideas across a vast ocean.  We thought we would share Christine’s letter with you – with her blessing – for your own inspiration:


My colleague sent me a link to your November 2017 Share Faire event because she knew I’d be massively interested…which I am.  It seems we have come to the same conclusion and created the same community project.

I am based in Cornwall, UK at the Eden Project and am part of the Eden Project Communities Team. For the last 18 months I’ve been developing Share Fairs (which sound very similar, if not exactly the same as, your own). So far there have been piloted 25 Share Fair events across England and Northern Island, engaging approximately 2,000 people and four of our pilot Share Fairs are set to continue into 2018. Some of these events have been stand-alone, others have been part of bigger carnivals or festivals. We’ve held Share Fairs in town centres, village greens and council parks. Many have been big community events with 100s attending, others have been more intimate – all have been positive.

We describe Share Fairs as social events a bit like an old-fashioned market or village fete but instead of buying and selling, people swap and share in a pop-up, money-free zone. Alongside sharing and swapping items such as clothes and books, people also share skills, stories, ideas, information and above all company. Instead of making financial capital, a Share Fair is about building community and creating social capital.

A Share Fair is also a process of empowerment. For community spirit to thrive, communities need to come together and enjoy regular, positive, shared experiences. Equally important, is the collaborative effort that goes into creating and developing these shared experiences. So Share Fairs are more than just the event on the day – they are the opportunity for communities to work collaboratively all year round, to be the vehicle by which new community groups are formed, individuals gain confidence and skills, and service providers co-ordinate. Share Fair events provide the focus, but the collaborative effort that goes into developing the event, is why Share Fairs have the potential to create enduring positive change and the opportunity for communities to tell new and positive stories about themselves.

Our facebook page is mksharefair/ and our twitter account is @SHAREeFAIR and here are some films we made: v=mjZeoG2ENHo& v=E4AKzFlzIQs&


What I shall be doing next is gathering evidence about Share Fairs and exploring how to gain the necessary funding to support more communities to start Share Fairs.


I’m really interested in your Share Faire story and hope you can let me know all about your project and ambitions.

All the very best.


Transitioners at EcoFarm 2018

Razia Mianoor

I would like to share my recent EcoFarm attendance at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA.

This was my first conference as a beginner farmer and landowner of 20 acres of organic land, located in Gilroy.  I attended workshops that were designed to help understand regulation, soil, and management of bee hives on farms. I was very impressed by the speakers and the workshop leaders to share their knowledge and answer questions and provide guidance in making selections.  The marketplace was informative with vendors displaying their products and showing new products that are available to improve farming methods.

Overall, the planning committee put in a lot of effort selecting a good variety of speakers and organizing the workshops.  The conference grounds are very easily accessible and comfortable, the staff was friendly and helpful.  I would recommend the EcoFarm conference to new members like myself to learn and share the experience.


Peter Ruddock

This January I attended my eighth EcoFarm Conference.  When I first attended in 2011, I wondered how welcome a food advocate would be at a farmer conference.  By 2014, I had joined the conference planning committee, one of a number of advocates with different points of view who was working to support the food system and, in particular, ecological farming (farming that is sustainable, regenerative, organic and more).  By 2016, I was helping co-found EcoFarm’s Diversity Advisory Group, whose mission is to increase the diversity of the conference to more closely match the demographic make-up of California.  We want to include people of all backgrounds and experiences, and to make everyone feel that they are a welcome, integral and important part of the conference, an effort which in its first to years has had some gratifying initial success.  So, yes, I felt welcome – and I guess that I am all in at this point.

Each year sees more programming that would be of interest to Transition members.  From urban agriculture to school gardens to permaculture, programming is growing to include more than production farmers, though production farming will always be the core of EcoFarm.  Transition Palo Alto members are increasingly paying attention – one friend spent much of January talking himself into going, and by the last day of the conference he was telling me what he is going to do differently next year.  It is obviously a way to learn.  But it is also a way to give back, a way to help build the resilient, local food system that is a key component to Transition’s vision for the future.

Curious?  Consider attending in 2019.  Check out the conference web-site.  If a three-day commitment is too much for you, come for a single day.  Do plan to eat there – the food, sourced from local farms like Full Belly Farm, is very good.  Asilomar is a stunningly beautiful place to confer.  Fun is had by all – music, films and more supplement the conference sessions.  And the people who attend are folks that you will want to meet.  See you at EcoFarm next year!

Preparing the Halloween Costume Swap and Fall Share Faire

The Transition Palo Alto Sharing Committee is working on the Halloween Costume Swap and Fall Share Faire.  You should join one of these – there as much fun as the Share Faires themselves!

Do Save the Date:  October 8, from 1-3 PM, in rooms A-6 and A-7 at Cubberley Community Center.  Stay tuned for details.  We’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Sharing the Garden: Quality over Quantity

Five people met under an oak tree in the beautiful Common Ground Garden on a perfect summer Northern California afternoon.


Caryn brought concord grapes.  They came with a story:  she has to watch for ripeness and pick them the day before they reach perfection.  Otherwise, a mother raccoon and her babies have a feast – and make a mess.  We could see why the raccoons would be excited – the grapes were perfect.

Ellen brought jujubes, which came with a story too.  Ellen was visiting LA, where she walked around the neighborhood for a little relaxation.  She encountered a jujube tree, overloaded with fruit.  She picked one that was hanging over the sidewalk and found it delicious.  She wanted more, but wanted to talk to the homeowner first.  Passing by the next day, she saw the homeowner in the yard, worrying over the downed jujube tree, which had fallen overnight!  She stopped to chat, and of course got permission to harvest as many as she wanted.


Herb showed us the unpainted signs for the upcoming Phoenix Garden workday on August 19.  The signs are already works of art.  When volunteers have painted them they will become masterpieces.


Peter had Christmas Lima Beans, leftover from his trip to Slow Food Nations in Denver.  He encouraged the others to keep them until spring, then plant them widely.  The beans are on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, which raises awareness for rare and heirloom varieties.  Let’s make this one a little bit less rare.


Which got William reflecting on beans,and peas and other legumes.  After which he finally wondered if any of them were perennials, something about which he had a vague memory.  None of us knew, not that it mattered.


If you know, or want to know, about perennial beans join us for the next Garden Share.  William has promised to look up perennial beans for us – he’ll Share what he learns when next we convene under the oak in the Garden.  See you then.





It was a Super Sweet Summer Share Faire

On Saturday, Transition Palo Alto held its first ever Share Faire at Common Ground Garden and what a great place it was to have a Share Faire!  With plenty of space to spread out, that’s just what we did around the beautiful garden space.

Our neighbors shared lots of skills.  Diane Ruddle taught us how to make white kimchi.  Hillie Salo showed us how to save tomato seeds.  William Mutch demonstrated the fine art of sharpening blades.  Wendy Breu showed us how to make fine crafts out of paper.  Hamsa Ramajayan had a gaggle of kids to show how to make fairy gardens.  And our host, Paul Higgins, demonstrated watering techniques AND showed us how to thresh, winnow and mill – using a bicycle-powered mill assembled by the girl scouts! – wheat grown in the garden.

There were, of course, lots of things to share:  books, clothes, household goods, garden goods and produce and much more.

Thanks to the volunteers who helped set-up, operate and clean-up the Share Faire.  We can’t do this without a community.

We’ll look forward to returning to the wonderful Common Ground Garden for another Share Faire soon.



Local Garden Share at Full Circle Farm – A Retrospective

Change happens.  In the nearly 7 years since the first Local Garden Share kicked off in Palo Alto, Garden Shares have come and gone, grown and shrunk, and changed times and locations.  They spawned Transition Palo Alto’s Share Faire, which has had its share of change over the years.  We are glad to say that the concept of Sharing remains strong in Palo Alto and the South Bay.

The Local Garden Share at Full Circle Farm, under the guidance of long-time Transitionista Victoria Armigo, has been a particularly stable presence in Sunnyvale.  Nearly every Fourth Sunday morning since 2011, Victoria and a group of gardeners have met at the small farmstand in the front of Full Circle Farm to share the produce of their gardens, nearly anything related to food, and themselves – they created community.  Alas, that will be coming to an end:  the last Local Garden Share at Full Circle Farm will take place on July 23 at 11:00 AM.

This bit of sad news did not happen due to lack of interest.  As you may have heard, Full Circle Farm will be closing at the end of July.  The Santa Clara Unified School District has chosen not to renew its contract with the farm, which will be leaving the property as soon as Summer Camp winds up in early August.  (SCUSD has indicated that they will manage the property as some kind of publicly-accessible urban agriculture.)

The Garden Sharers of Sunnyvale are still contemplating the future of Local Garden Shares in their area.  They are thinking of rotating the Share from home to home.  It is also possible that the Share will find a new permanent home somewhere in the neighborhood.  Stay tuned to Transition Palo Alto for developments on this.  And if you’d like to help, or simply want to visit Full Circle Farm one last time, please come on out to the Farm at 11:00 AM on July 23 – bring the produce of your garden, bring anything related to food or gardening, but most importantly bring yourself and build community.